Teachers union asking Minneapolis to hold off on reopening schools

As Minneapolis Public Schools finalize plans to resume in-person learning on starting Feb. 8, a local teacher’s union is asking city school leaders to hold off.  

"We really want some additional safety measures." Said Greta Callahan, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, a local union serving more than 3,500 educators city-wide. "Right now, MPLS Public Schools is choosing to do the bare minimum required. We don’t expect that of our educators, and we shouldn’t expect that in a pandemic."   

Callahan told FOX 9 in an interview that many educators do not feel comfortable returning to their classrooms.  

Concerns from teachers come after the Gov. Tim Walz administration gave school districts the green light to resume in-person learning starting Jan. 18.  

MPLS is returning to in-person learning beginning Feb. 8, which will be phased in throughout the month.  

Children in pre-k and kindergarten will begin Feb.8, first and second graders resume on Feb. 10, and children in the third, fourth, and fifth grade will begin on Feb. 22.  

Middle school and high school students will remain in distance learning.  

MPLS announced health and safety protocols that aims to keep both students and staff safe.  

Face covering will be required, the district plans to limit student movement, and sanitize areas that are touched the most.  

In classrooms, MPLS said it would maintain as much social distancing as possible with a goal to "maintain 3 feet for children" and six feet of social distancing will be maintained between staff and students.    

But Callahan said many teachers feel the safety protocol does not go far enough.  

"We really want there to be mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing," she added. "Right now, what they are proposing is optional bi-weekly testing. We want class size caps. We are in a pandemic. We should not have 20 to 30 children in a class."   

The union has launched an online petition with more than 2,600 signatures at the time of this report, asking city school leaders to come up with a better plan for safely opening schools.   

In a statement to FOX 9, a spokesperson for the MPLS School Board reads:  

As we work to join other school districts in meeting Gov. Walz’s priority to have in-person learning option for our youngest students, we are focused on implementing all state and local health and safety requirements. Our Board will discuss this topic at our business meeting tomorrow night and are considering the viewpoints of educators, families, students, and community members, as we have been throughout the pandemic.